Fans removed from hockey game for remarks aimed at black player

Lynette Rowe
February 19, 2018

The Chicago Blackhawks beat the Washington Capitals 7-1 Friday night at the United Center - but that's not the story.

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) - Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly says he is disgusted and saddened black athletes such as himself continue to be the targets of racial taunts from fans.

Washington Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly argues with Chicago Blackhawks fans from the penalty box during the third period of an NHL hockey game Saturday night, in Chicago. Security officers at the United Center were alerted and the four spectators were removed from the building. "It's not really a secret", Smith-Pelly said after the Capitals practiced in Buffalo on Sunday.

Smith-Pelly wasn't available for comment but Capitals coach Barry Trotz said the player was "a little upset". "He just said it's a few idiots being ignorant".

"It's disgusting. It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing, over and over", he said. "It just shows ignorance".

"It's disgusting", Smith-Pelly said.

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NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman issued a statement on Sunday supporting the decision to eject the fans.

Unfortunately, this isn't the first time that Smith-Pelly has been subjected to such treatment from fans. He was coming off the ice and heard a fan scream "go back to playing basketball". "You would think there would be some change or progression".

Joining the Capitals on their road trip, which concludes at Buffalo on Monday, are players' fathers, allowing Smith-Pelly an opportunity to discuss what happened with his dad. The League will take steps to have our clubs remind all stakeholders that they are entitled to enjoy a positive environment - free from unacceptable, inappropriate, disruptive, inconsiderate or unruly behaviors or actions and may not engage in conduct deemed detrimental to that experience.

The NHL has roughly 30 black players, the Tribune reported. In that release, the team apologized to Smith-Pelly and the Capitals organization for "harmful comments" made by the fans. He has seven goals and nine assists in 54 games.

The league designated February "Hockey Is for Everyone" month, a program that promotes inclusion in hockey regardless of "race, color, religion, national origin, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, socio-economic status and those with disabilities".

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